NSPRA Front-Runner: Stephen Nichols

NSPRA Front-Runners are members identified by the NSPRA Executive Board as emerging leaders who are doing outstanding work for their schools, their chapters and for NSPRA. They have demonstrated professional leadership at the state and national level and/or have been recognized for innovation and excellence through NSPRA award programs or presentations.

Stephen Nichols
Stephen Nichols

Current Title: Public Information & Community Relations Officer, Folsom Cordova Unified School District, Rancho Cordova, CA

Alma Maters: BA — Classics/Political Science- Howard University (Washington, D.C.); MBA —Organizational Leadership/Marketing, Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.) 

My PR Motto: The most important question for the PR professional is not what, where, or why something is...rather how something is presented, because how makes all the difference.

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I am inspired by… courageous, visionary, mission-oriented, service-focused people.

Favorite professional fantasy: To become the Marketing Director for the San Francisco Forty-Niners.

Current communication tool I use the most is… Social Media (specifically Twitter & Facebook)

Communication tool I rarely use anymore is… e-newsletter.

Greatest PR Success: Building successful partnerships/relations between our district and previously critical community leaders.

Greatest Communication Challenge: Citizen-journalists. Not always the most accurate information, but the capacity for students and teachers to distribute messages (e.g., a lock-down communicated over a student Facebook page gets picked up by local media) puts enormous pressure on us. It’s unprecedented and the modern PIO/PR function is going to need strategies to overcome this.

A strong communication program supports student success by… empowering community support and parental engagement. Public dollars are scarce and communicating effectively helps voters understand the needs of the district, which in turn enables them to support us (i.e., parcel taxes, bonds, statewide propositions). Parental engagement is supported because strong programs should remove barriers to communication (i.e., socioeconomic, cultural, language, technology) and in turn attract more participation — especially for under-represented groups.

My favorite part of my job is… working with young people! In 2010 I created the district’s Communications Internship Program. “The mission of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District Communications Internship Program (CIP) is to educate its participants in all aspects of school district public relations. Through careful observation and practical experiences, interns will learn how to function in a professional environment that requires a high energy level, the ability to perform under pressure, and will develop confidence in communicating complex issues to the general public.” I have seven high school seniors that work with me each day and it is through training, mentoring, and guiding them in their development that brings me the greatest satisfaction of my career thus far.

I believe school PR/communications is... an essential function that enables the community at-large to be an informed and engaged participant in the educational process.

Joining CalSPRA… was the best decision I made as a first-year PIO. I was introduced to other public information groups, but they didn’t face the day to day “adventure” that a school PR professional does. CalSPRA welcomed me with open arms and helped me to build confidence in my first year on the job and beyond. I’m glad to serve as an officer today.

I’m an NSPRA member because… there is no better “think tank” for school PR than NSPRA. Being a member has given me stellar professional development, a wide-array of examples to model, and most importantly a very large network of PR peers and veterans to engage with.

My epitaph: “Life is cumulative...live it on purpose.”